IRS Takes Steps to Reopen Facilities
A little more than a month before the postponed tax-filing deadline, the IRS is bringing back several waves of employees throughout the month of June.
Beginning in mid-March, IRS facilities including call centers and return processing centers across the country closed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. As of March 30, the IRS had directed all employees, including employees who were currently not teleworking but whose work was portable or could be adapted to work off-site, to begin working from home. Certain employees continued to go to offices to complete non-remote mission-critical duties, but many services such as providing live telephone assistance, processing paper tax returns, and responding to correspondence have been extremely limited or completely suspended for the last three months.
On June 1, employees with nonportable work returned to offices in Kentucky, Texas, and Utah. The National Treasury Employees Union estimates that 20,000 IRS employees work in those three states, about 9,000 of which have been teleworking. The next step was to reopen operations in Georgia, Tennessee, Missouri, and Michigan on June 15.
Beginning June 29, Indiana, Ohio, California, Puerto Rico, and Oregon are expected to open. Finally, on July 13, the IRS plans to reopen facilities in remaining states. These locations include key processing centers, notice print facilities, and call center operations.
Not all frontline workers in those states will be recalled. Employees who are currently teleworking will continue to do so. Additionally, those who are considered a medical high risk also do not have to return to work and will continue to remain on administrative leave. Finally, the IRS intends to limit the amount of employees recalled so they can ensure proper physical distancing between employees in the workplace.
What does this means for taxpayers? The IRS has millions of pieces of mail and a back log of calls and taxpayer questions to deal with. Expect response times to phone calls and letters as well as the processing of most amended returns to remain slow for the foreseeable future.
On a positive note, during this extended shutdown the IRS has moved to allow electronic transmission of certain documents and created a process to accept faxed copies of loss carryback claims in order to speed needed cash to taxpayers. We hope these moves to more electronic communications will continue to build efficiency and effectiveness in working with taxpayers. Additionally, the IRS has always continued to process electronic tax returns, issue direct deposit refunds, and accept electronic payments.
If you have any questions regarding the status of your accounts, the processing of your returns, or need other information from the IRS, don’t hesitate to reach out to Anne Oliver or your Cherry Bekaert advisor.